Female Athletes: Higher Risk of Suffering an ACL Tear

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament, more commonly known as the ACL, is a ligament located in the center of the knee that functions as the main source of stability for the knee.  An ACL tear is a common injury that is seen in almost all sports, however it most commonly occurs in soccer, football, and tennis.  Roughly a year ago I tore my ACL while playing soccer and since then I have been interested in knowing what factors played a role in my injury. I have heard when it comes to ACL tears females have a higher risk of sustaining an injury than males, but why is that?


Another explanation According to Robert Shmerling, the number of ACL tears sustained by females is six times more common than that of males.  One of the main explanations for this is the difference in body types of the two genders.  To start, females have a wider pelvic width which then changes the configuration of the ankles and knee compared to that of a male.   In addition, females have different thigh bone structures than men do which could also become a factor in the increase risk of injury.  When it comes to the quadriceps and hamstrings males have a better ratio which in return allows for the hamstring to balance out the strength of the quadriceps.  It has been found that female athletes have weaker hamstrings, thus resulting in an uneven ratio of quadriceps to hamstring strength and an increased risk of injury due to stress on the knee.


Another explanation as to why females are at a higher risk is the difference in the way men and females cut and land when wanting to make a change in direction.  When cutting, males cut with both feet along with having a bend in their knees whereas females cut on one foot and in an upright position.  In addition, the majority of female athletes naturally have their knees rotated inward when cutting and landing.  When females do land on their feet, they often do so with their feet completely flat on the ground in comparison to men who land on the balls of the feet.

So now knowing that female athletes may be at a higher risk of sustaining an ACL tear, should they take precautionary measures against a possible tear by participating in ACL prevention programs?  The purpose of ACL prevention programs is to strengthen the muscles around the knee and also enhance the form of athletes when running, cutting, and landing considering the fact that many ACL injuries are non-contact.  While the programs do do that, there is not enough research to conclude that these prevention programs actually decrease the risk of a tear.  However, if there is a possibility that prevention programs do decrease the risk of an ACL tear, I believe it would be well worth it to partake in the 20 minute programs before each practice rather than going through six months of physical therapy like I had to after I tore my ACL.

The differences in body types and the way men and females cut and land when changing directions has an impact on why females may be more likely to sustain an ACL tear, however gender may not be the only risk.  I have come to the conclusion myself that being a female did increase my chances of tearing my ACL and was played a role in it, however it may not have been the only factor that contributed to my injury.






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2 thoughts on “Female Athletes: Higher Risk of Suffering an ACL Tear

  1. Emma Murphy

    So many of my friends have torn their ACL. One of my friends in particular, tore it not once but twice. I was on a rowing team in high school and many of the girls joined our team because their doctor recommended it as physical therapy for an ACL tear. It was interesting to read about how females are more at risk because of how they land on their feet or the strength of their hamstrings. One of my friends actually tore her ACL while running and playing tag. She pivoted the wrong way and it just tore. I was curious to see if being female also affected how long the recovery time is and I came cross this article. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/interview_allen_acl_injuries_in_women/

  2. Lauren Messing

    Your blog immediately attracted my attention because I was a huge athlete in high school. I have had multiple concussions and tore my lower back so I am aware of the painful commonness of injury. However, I have never torn my ACL but have heard from friends that have that it is one of the most painful injuries. The explanation you wrote about for the reasons women tear their ACL more than men is astonishing. I would have never imagined that would be the reason why. ACL tears are debilitating, yet most importantly you can recover from them. Many top athletes have experience with tearing an ACL and have fully recovered. They did not let their injury determine if they would or would not play the game they love. Here
    is an article that lists the top 10 athletes who have recovered from an ACL tear and more injuries and are still some of the best out there. Enjoy!

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